AI in the Fight Against Deforestation

It is no secret that the world’s forests are disappearing alarmingly fast, with the current rate of 10 million hectares (annually) set to destroy all forests within the next century. With our growing global population, this figure is only likely to rise as human civilisation looks to urbanise the wilderness. Striving to combat this, various companies have engineered AI solutions designed to limit deforestation in the world today.

Computer systems giant NVIDIA have worked with Outland Analytics, to develop a device that uses algorithms to detect sounds within the rainforest, and thus identify potential indicators of threat e.g. chainsaws or vehicles. These alerts can then be fed back to local rangers, allowing greater ability to monitor illegal deforestation in the area. This aims to resolve the issue of lack of law enforcement- in the USA, on average, 500 square miles of forest is patrolled by just 1 officer. With this innovation, if a tree falls in the forest, it’ll definitely make a sound.

Source: NVIDIA

Source: NVIDIA

Elsewhere, the OpenSurface project has developed a solution for monitoring land use over a much larger scale. The aim of this is to provide accurate data for governing bodies and researchers to use in their study of deforestation. Their programme can analyse spatial imagery both past and present to identify trends in deforestation and predict future threats. Additionally, OpenSurface claims to measure different species of trees from the satellite imagery and indicate their potential for carbon sequestration- useful in identifying the areas in need of greatest protection. This analysis can also be extrapolated to forecast factors such as biodiversity levels, wildfires, and soil conditions. The ability to gain such insights from satellite imagery allows much larger areas of land to be analysed more efficiently than previously possible. This data could be invaluable for organisations such as the UN in evaluating different countries’ abidance of climate agreements.

These technologies appear to be incredibly useful tools in tackling the issue of deforestation, making it interesting to see just how much benefit they really bring.